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Old December 2nd, 2012, 09:16 AM   #1
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Why did Pétain swap sides in WWII?


What made General Philippe Pétain swap sides to the Germans in WWII after putting so much effort into the Battle of Verdun in WWI?

Or do you not consider that he swapped sides at all?

What is your explanation of
Philippe Pétain's actions in WWII?
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 09:30 AM   #2

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brisieis View Post
What made General Philippe Pétain swap sides to the Germans in WWII after putting so much effort into the Battle of Verdun in WWI?

Or do you not consider that he swapped sides at all?

What is your explanation of
Philippe Pétain's actions in WWII?
Age and power most likely... he by that time was of advanced age and found it comfortable to collaborate. I don't know enough on the subject to get too deeply involved, but even in the World War he was more often than not apt to sit back and wait and see, and I imagine he felt opposing the Nazis was suicide.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 09:34 AM   #3
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"L'usure d'age"? That's what de Gaulle put it down to afterwards at least.

But really, a combination of finding his version of how France should fight completely knocked arse over head by the Germans in 1940 — which to Pétain, and not a few others beside, meant that it was all hopeless anyway — the belief that the British would fold to the Germans anyway — so the situation REALLY was hopeless — shock over the damage wrought to French towns the frontline had passed over (really, that does seem to have been a major concern for Pétain, while de Gaulle regarded that stuff as just bricks and mortar, and what needed saving was the spirit of France, no less), and on top of that we can add a rather pronounced dislike for the parliamentary democracy of the French Third Republic, with it's paper thin majorities, and revolving-door cabinets.

It's not that Pétain "changed sides" to the Germans. It's rather that he concluded that it was all hopless, nothing could be done, and so France had to accomodate with the Germans. And he "offered his person" to the nation, believing himself to be the absolutely best suited to bring France through the ordeal.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 09:53 AM   #4

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The fact is that collaboration with the Germans was not a desperate last step for him (and his like) and no more than a grim necessity, it was also an opportunity to turn French politics in a direction that accorded with own wishes, in a way that would never have been possible otherwise; the unregenerate and often anti-Semitic right was quite strong in France, and his regime was in fact surprisingly popular.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 09:59 AM   #5

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1. hatred towards the British,
Petain felt that the British had abandoned France and by several events he had gotten a hatred for the British.
2. quite a popular opinion in France of the day was that Nazi-Germany and Italy would treat a fascist state better than a republic.
3. Petain never really swapped sides, he was GIVEN total power by the French government, the representatives of the French people. (there were a lot of factors that influenced this but this will probably not interest you)
4. Petain collaborated with the Germans because he saw this as the only way in which France could still have at least a bit of autonomy.
In a way he saw this as the only option for the continuation of the French state.
5. The French were never part of the Axis pact, there was no military alliance.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:33 AM   #6

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All good points, but this one oversimplifies the position I think: '4. Petain collaborated with the Germans because he saw this as the only way in which France could still have at least a bit of autonomy. In a way he saw this as the only option for the continuation of the French state.' In fact Petain and Vichy also collaborated with the Germans because their political aims and views were partially in accord with theirs. Some were closer to the Nazis than Petain himself of course. It's often not realized, for instance, that the Vichy delivered up more Jews than they were obliged to do.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:36 AM   #7

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May I recommend this documentary about this sad and confusing period of French history, it is acknowledged to be something of a masterpiece:

Marcel Ophüls - Le chagrin et la pitié aka The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) Re-post
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:38 AM   #8

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I prefer myself Shirer's massive and complex work:

The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940: William L. Shirer: 9780306805622: Amazon.com: Books
The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940: William L. Shirer: 9780306805622: Amazon.com: Books


I haven't read it in years... gotta re-read it
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:55 AM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by monsieurdl View Post
I prefer myself Shirer's massive and complex work:

The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940: William L. Shirer: 9780306805622: Amazon.com: Books

I haven't read it in years... gotta re-read it
I finished it about half a year ago and I can see it standing on the shelve right now.
Brilliant piece of work.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 10:59 AM   #10

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I would say much of it was a power interest. Petain had felt offended by the actions of the Popular Front governments that had dominated the 3rd Republic between the wars and blamed the defeat on them. He also used this and the rapid lack of enthusiasm to fight on to get France out of the war and score the political revenge he felt due to him after French military budgets had been slashed at various times by Left wing governments.
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